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center unmoored in the presence of infinite fringes

for solo prepared bass tuba (2016)

Written for and commissioned by Aaron Hynds

Premiere: Aaron Hynds, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, November 5, 2016





The piece activates a dialectic between melody and instrument. The instrument’s valves outline caved-in, languid traces of melody, while the preparation (an extreme mute of sorts), together with the fragile, strained tessitura (quiet volume in a high register), obfuscates the clarity of melodic gestures. If 19th century Western art music’s aesthetics of melodic lyricism sought to transcend the materiality of the instrumental medium in order to script musical sound as a transparent vessel for ineffable (Western humanist) meaning, the present work materializes these aesthetics’ conditions of impossibility, staging melody’s submersion into its physical medium. This work thus approaches the tuba’s unwieldy materiality not as an unwanted nuisance to be suppressed, but instead as a central point of departure in the construction of a musical language. The title, paraphrasing a sentence from sculptor/critic Robert Smithson’s “A Museum of Language in the Vicinity of Art,” refers to the work’s material—emerging out of the collapse of melodic gestures into the instrument’s unstable, unmanageable materiality—and also to its deliberately expansive, aimless, haptic formal strategy.